Dec 29: South African Jews revisited

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Devotion recalled
Many thanks and much appreciation for printing Nancy Chernofsky’s reminiscence about her father (“My father and Shabbat,” December 26). Her story parallels that of many others, including my immigrant parents and grandparents, who stood fast in their commitment to living a full Torah-centered life in the United States.
I especially remember being a member of a teenage youth group in the Young Israel of Manhattan on the Lower East Side, which provided me with inspiring Jewish role models from whom I learned a lot. I especially recall the late Nat Karper and David Stein, of blessed memory. A formal and informal Jewish education are the sine qua non ensuring a Jewish future in an open and liberal society.
SA Jews, revisited
The letter from JJ Gross (“Coming home to roost,” Letters, December 25) is a classic example of sweeping statements leading to generalizations that are not supported by historical fact.
It is true that many South African Jews supported and benefited from apartheid, and many others were content to remain neutral in the comfort delivered by political apathy. However, many South African Jews were engaged in the struggle to end apartheid, and many suffered financially and emotionally because of their sacrifices, as did their families.
In addition, a great many South African Jews made aliya, and their contribution will be found in every facet in the endeavors to establish and build the State of Israel.
There are many contributing factors that led to the downgrading of the embassy, of which Israel’s dealings both militarily and economically with the apartheid regime are certainly one.
Before making sweeping generalizations, Gross should take the trouble to study the history of South African Jewry, of which he obviously knows very little.
More likely explanations for South Africa’s ANC Party’s decision to downgrade the embassy in Israel are the good relations Israel had with the apartheid government of South Africa and the strong influence of the BDS movement in South Africa.
Many actively antiapartheid Jews did come to Israel – e.g. Arthur Goldreich and Benjamin Pogrund.
Tel Aviv
I take umbrage with JJ Gross, whose letter seems to blame South African Jews for the ANC downgrading the embassy in Israel. On the contrary, many South African Jews played a very active political role in South Africa. It was a Jew, my father-in-law, Lazar Sidelsky, who gave Nelson Mandela his opportunity to serve his articles in his law office in Johannesburg, when every other firm refused to take a black man into their office.
“I have found Jews to be more broad-minded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice,” wrote Mandela in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.
South African Jews have long supported Israel financially. They have donated more per capita than in any other country after the Six Day War; and even since before the establishment of the State of Israel, they have come on aliya and taken a very active part in the life of the country, be it as pilots, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and so forth. They have sent their children to live here, and those who live in South Africa still are frequent tourists to our country and very supportive.
To call South African Jews cowards simply doesn`t go!
APOLOGY We apologize for accidentally omitting, in this week’s Magazine (December 29), the names of the photographers who took photos for the table of contents (page 3, from top: Etniel Zion, Pascale Perez-Rubin) and for “Celebrating Citrus” (page 28, Ilva Beretta; page 29, from top: Nicole Franzen, Nicole Franzen, Ilva Beretta).